Fear and Loathing in Scotland

"Filthy Huns Breeding like rats in California and spreading east. Listen for the roar of the Harleys. You will hear it in the distance like thunder. And then, wafting in on the breeze, will come the scent of dried blood, semen and human grease … the noise will grow louder and they will appear, on the west horizon, eyes bugged and bloodshot, foam on the lips, chewing some rooty essence smuggled in from a foreign jungle … they will ravish your women, loot your liquor stores and humiliate your mayor on a bench on the village square …"

You could be forgiven at first glance for thinking that the above is some random excerpt from a rather unsavoury article describing Rangers fans. If you are familiar with Alex Thomson’s blog in which he made reference to our underclass with their ‘razor blades contaminated with anything from faeces through to HIV to ricin’, or any line from Phil Mac Giolla Bhain’s colourful ‘Incubator’ it might ring uncomfortably true.

Instead, it was taken from Hunter S Thompson’s fantastic ‘Hells Angels’ book. Being an admirer of Thompson’s work I first read this book many years ago but I returned to it recently and couldn’t help but feel many similarities to our current situation.

In the book Thompson argues that ‘the Hells Angels as they exist today (or at least at the time of writing the book in 1966) were virtually created by the Times, Newsweek and The New York Times.’
Thompson believed that although the Hells Angels were far from being Angels they were miles away from being the bloodthirsty murdering rapists that they had been portrayed to be - instead it was the journalists that wrote the stories of the exploits of the Hells Angels that had given them the fearsome reputation that they had acquired.

In other words the journalists at the time added so many arms and legs to the Hells Angels story it may as well have been spiders and octopus riding those bikes in leather jackets. One could argue that the reputation Rangers fans have acquired over the years has been gained in a similar way.

And so we move onto the main topic to be discussed here: journalists and journalism. The UK press in recent years has reached all time lows in its own underclass activities with its phone hacking, police bribery and exercising improper influence. One could only imagine the acts committed by the UK press that have yet to be discovered.

Elements of the journalistic profession have a tendency to both mislead and to dramatise-the term ‘Daily Rag’, which is a description for almost every tabloid going, is hardly a complimentary one.

The UK press hounds celebrities, chase victims and sensationalise all for their own selfish needs. The need to sell papers often seems to outweigh the need for morality and truth.

In a time when newspapers are a dying breed these selfish needs are also desperate ones. The race for online reporting is on and journalistic ambulance chasers from all avenues delve into the world of social media to stir emotion, brew hatred and simply to attention.

It certainly happens frequently in the reporting of Rangers Football Club. Someone will take to Twitter and make a sly comment on the Rangers situation in the hope that it will gain attention or stir up an argument. Coincidently this often occurs the day before his or her article on the same subject is released. On countless occasions they also try to personalise the story – they stir with intent and then scream of their own received abuse – with everyone and their dog being ‘threatened’. 

It’s almost laughable in its transparency and although most of us see right through the looking glass we find ourselves somehow still involved – and sadly the deception is successful. The paper gets its sales or more likely in this day and age the website gets its hits.

Returning for a moment to Thompson’s ‘Hells Angels’ he also discusses how newspapers and journalists are clever enough to avoid any legal repercussions from the slander or untruths they write:

“anyone who has worked on a newspaper for more than two months knows how technical safeguards can be built into even the wildest story, without fear of losing read impact. What they amount to, basically, is the art of printing a story without taking legal responsibility for it. The word ‘alleged’ is key to this art. Other keys are ‘so and so’ (‘or claimed’), ‘it was reported’ and ‘according to.”

Thompson then explains that in 14 short newspaper paragraphs a story in the Times about the Hells Angels contained nine of these keys. One wonders if we were to re-read many of the articles written about Rangers and Rangers men in the past two years just how many of these qualifiers we would find.

Certainly in my memory these ‘keys’ sound all too familiar. Here in Scotland we could probably add to this list with keys such as ‘it’s understood’, ‘a source within’ and ‘it’s believed’.

I have also noted a tonal change in much of what passes for journalism in these parts as of late. Perhaps as a result of the obvious success of blogging, many ‘news’ articles tend not to be one of fact-finding but a poorly hidden avenue for personal opinion.

There was one sentence that stood out to me in a recent article by Tom English. In his article about Dave King and his possible future involvement in Rangers he wrote,‘All matters have been settled. The moral argument is less important than the technical argument.’

What a breath of fresh air it would be if Mr English and others followed his own little tit-bit of information. The journalistic views on Rangers these past few years have all cried about morality rather than the technical argument. This was obviously clear, for example, in the discussions of EBTs. In my humblest of opinions the morality route is chased simply because the technical argument is so often flawed.

Perhaps these journalists should consider the lack of morality within their own profession before they shout about the morality of others. Coming off the back of the biggest scandals in their workplace are they questioning the ethics of their own profession? Are they ensuring that the phone tapping scandals of the News of the World are never repeated? Have they sought contrition from those that further blackened their already dark grey names?

The newest and quite probably the most insincere route these journalists are using recently is the repetition of the sentence, ‘Surely Rangers fans want to know the answer to these questions?’
Simply, and I apologise for being the bearer of such bad news, but the answer to that is simply No. And yes, that was with a capital ‘N’. We do not want an answer to the questions contained within your faux writings.

We have our own questions that many of us ask every day – and we will constantly seek answers. Alas, it is unlikely we will find these answers in the writings of some Scottish journalists.
That is not to say that every living breathing journalist within Scotland falls into this category – there are flickers of light amongst the media darkness. I feel no need to point them out as I’m sure most of us will know who they are but they are a minority.

It should be no surprise then – this continued and never ending interest in our club. Driven by hate? Perhaps for some but for others it’s simply pandering to the majority. It is a simply an effective sales technique.

Give the public what they want! Unfortunately the majority of the public up here in Scotland want to hear bad news, conspiracy and criminal activity whilst reading about Rangers Football Club.

It is the world we live in.

The fear and loathing may continue but unfortunately for them it won’t sell papers forever.